hitch does updike


Most of the celebrations and elegies for the great John Updike were abysmally bland, praising him as the bard and chronicler of the great American middle (middle-class, middle-minded, and so forth). One obituarist got it more nearly right, saying that Updike seemed like a paragon of the bourgeoisie to some while appearing as a worrying outrider of sexual liberation and subversion to others. A lot depends on how you first come upon an author—at my English boys boarding school in the 1960s, a copy of one of the early Rabbit works (Rabbit, Run) was passed around the dormitory with its covers ripped off as a “hot stuff” illicit text. To this day, I hardly dare go and look it up, but at one point “she” was apparently acting as if she wanted to turn herself inside out, while “he” could feel something like the inside of a “velvet slipper.” Oh, sweet Jesus, what was all this? I burned and yearned to know, just as Alexander Portnoy might have done, and was amazed later to discover that both Updike and Philip Roth were considered to be literature in the United States.

more from Slate here.